Ramblings: Who belongs in the Hall of Fame?

Michael Clifford

2020-05-08

It's the end of the week – I think – so let's have a little bit more fun with posts. For those who missed, I wrote yesterday about what a 2020 Team North America would look like. I had a bit of positive feedback on it, so let's continue in that similar vein. Instead of drafting a team from specific countries, let's look more broadly: who are the current active players that are borderline Hall of Famers? Not guys like who've already locked up their bids like Crosby, Ovechkin, or Karlsson, or guys who are certainly trending that direction like McDavid or Kucherov. Who are the guys that are in their 30s that have a case that can be made both for and against? Let's look at a few of them.

Thanks to the people on Hockey Twitter who were talking about this a few days ago. They gave me the idea. Feel free to add any others in the Facebook comments. We'll limit things to five skaters for now. All stats from Hockey Reference.

 

Steven Stamkos

Stamkos should probably be a lock but until I see him actually get inducted into the Hall of Fame, I'm not going to hold my breath.

The case against Stamkos is as such: few individual awards and international achievements, and zero Stanley Cups. I'd like to think team accomplishments, or failure of such things, isn't levied against a single player, but years of experience have taught me otherwise. Stamkos has no MVP trophies, and here's something else to consider: he has one (1) season where he finished top-5 in MVP voting (second in 2011-12). And that's what makes Stamkos's career fascinating: he has no individual trophies, and no Stanley Cups, and yet he's one of just 16 players to ever reach 400 goals and 400 assists by the end of their age-29 season. Of those 16 players, only four are not in the Hall of Fame. Of those four not in the HOF, two assuredly will be (Jagr, Ovechkin), one is Stamkos, and the other is Brian Bellows. Hockey Reference has his point share in that span similar to names like Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur. I think it's kind of understated how good he has been. It's just been a matter of staying healthy these last handful of seasons.

I do believe Stamkos gets in easily, but I can see the arguments against him.

 

Nicklas Backstrom

Another guy with massive point totals yet no individual trophies to boast. He has just two top-10 finishes for the Hart Trophy, zero top-5 finishes, and no other trophies on his mantle except for that Stanley Cup.

Despite all that, ever since Backstrom entered the league in 2007, he's led the league in assists with 684. Next is Crosby at 654, and the rest of the guys over 600 are future HOFers themselves (Thornton, Malkin, Getzlaf, Kane, and Henrik Sedin). A full 2020-21 season could see Backstrom reach 1000 points by the end of his age 33 season. The list of players to reach 1000 points by the end of their age-33 season counts 52, and of those 52 players, only 11 are not in the Hall of Fame. Of those 11, many are active players that will be in the Hall someday like Thornton, Kane, Crosby, Malkin, and Ovechkin. Only a half-dozen, give or take, out of those 52 players with 1000 points by the age of 33, will not get to the Hall of Fame.

The question is if Backstrom gets to 1000 assists. He sits at 684, and would probably need 6-7 seasons to get there. Even if he only gets to 900, there are just 19 players that have reached 900 helpers, and though two are not in the Hall, they will eventually (Thornton and Jagr).

I'm not certain Backstrom gets in, but if I was given even odds, I would bet on him being in.

 

Eric Staal

This is the point where things start to get dicey. By the team he was 30 years old, Staal had over 300 goals and over 400 assists. As of today, he sits with 436 goals and 585 assists. Let's say he gets to 500 goals and 700 assists by the end of his career (that may be a tad high but that's assuming five more years in the league where he'd just need to average something like 15 goals and 25 assists a season). Of all 25 players to have reached 500 goals and 700 assists, only three are not in the Hall of Fame currently: Jaromir Jagr, Pierre Turgeon, and Jeremy Roenick. Jagr will get in, so that means just 2/25 players have not. That would translate to over a 90 percent chance of Staal getting in if he can get to the 500/700 mark.

Like others on this list, there are no individual awards to speak of, and he has that one Stanley Cup from his second year in the league. Since that Stanley Cup in 2006, Staal has played a grand total of 33 playoff games in 14 seasons, most of those (18) coming in their Conference Final run in 2009. Yes, he has a Cup, but it's not as if there is a wide range of playoff performances to scan here.

I really do think how Staal finishes his career will be important. He's already crossed 1000 points and has a Cup, but those are no guarantees of a call to the Hall: Vincent Damphousse has a Cup and over 1200 points, Steve Larmer has over 1000 points and over 570 goals with a Cup, Rod Brind'Amour had nearly 1200 points, two Selke Trophies, and a Cup, and none of them are in the Hall of Fame. Staal is not a lock, but a few more strong seasons could push him over the hump.

 

Jason Spezza

Now things are getting really suspect. He currently has 940 points and next year will be his age-37 season. The question of 1000 points is a really good question at the moment, seeing as his last three seasons have produced 26, 27, and 25 points. But let's assume he adds 30 goals and 60 assists to his current career total by the end of his own career, pushing him over 350 goals and 650 assists. That would get him well over 1000 points, but it would take over 1300 games to do it. Let's say he sits around 0.77 points per game when it's all said and done (he’s at 0.84 right now). Among the 17 players with 1300 games who've averaged under 0.8 points per game, only one is currently in the HOF, and he literally just got in this season (Guy Carbonneau). There's one guy (Henrik Sedin) who'll probably get in eventually, and two others who might in Patrick Marleau and Rod Brind'Amour. Other than that, everyone else is out of the HOF. That would mean, at best, Spezza's chances of getting in probably sit around 20 percent or less.

The bigger problem is no Cups and no awards. He has just one top-10 finish for the Hart Trophy, a few All-Star Games, and that's it. Even internationally, he was frequently left off of Canada's best teams, settling for a World Championship instead.

Does a guy with no Cups, no awards, few international achievements, and 1000 points but a low PPG mark get in? Probably not. Then again, I never thought Guy Carbonneau would get in, so let's at least leave the door open here.

 

Brent Burns

The Eric Lindros Rule. What matters more: a player's longevity or a player's peak? It's not like Burns hasn't been in the league a long time; his first season was 2003-04 and we're already looking towards his fantasy value in 2020-21. He didn't really stand out in Minnesota though, whether on the blue line or up front, as he never broke the 50-point mark until 2014-15, his 11th season in the league and his fourth with San Jose. But then he had a stretch where in five seasons, he finished top-10 in the Norris voting four times, top-3 three times, and won it once. He had 361 points in those five seasons, 35 more than the next-closest defenceman (Karlsson), and they were the only two rearguards above 275 points from 2014-19. Burns blew the competition out of the water, but only for a half-decade once he got to his 30s.

There's still a lot of time left here. He has five years left on his current contract and that puts 1000 points in the realm of possibility (he has 694). How many players have played both forward and defence, and reached 1000 points? Even if he only gets to 900, maybe he should get in just for how good and unique of a player he is.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency NYI Players
25% JOSH BAILEY ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER BROCK NELSON
19.1% MATHEW BARZAL JORDAN EBERLE ANDERS LEE
15.2% DERICK BRASSARD TOM KUHNHACKL JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU

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